Monday, May 23, 2011

The story of Brie Hackett

The Story of Brie Hackett 05/23/2011


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Today, we welcome Sarah Hackett as our guest blogger. Sarah and I met at the Memories Support Group at Lexington Medical Center, and I believe her story will touch you. Thank you for sharing your story, Sarah!
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My name is Sarah Hackett, and I'm a 31 year old high school teacher in Lexington, SC. I have been married 2 and 1/2 years to the love of the my life who I didn't even meet until I was 27. We got married in a garden in Lexington, SC in October 2008. We decided to start a family about a year after we got married, but it took us about 9 months to conceive. We found out we were expecting in April 2010 the same week that my sister found out she and her husband were expecting! It was crazy!


We found out we were having a girl and decided immediately to name her Brie after seeing her move around on the ultrasound pictures. She was such a dancer! She was moving and grooving in my belly the whole pregnancy. She was definitely my little dancing girl! My pregnancy was textbook. The day my sister gave birth to her son, we had both hit 38 weeks. I remember waking up the next day and saying to Brie, "Well, sweetgirl. It's just you and me now!" I expected to be pregnant for two more weeks and go through natural childbirth...nervous about it but at the same time looking forward to the challenge.


However, that was the day I stopped feeling my dancing girl. I started having contractions, and my husband and I decided to go in to the hospital to see if it was our time...it was our time...to say goodby to our little Brie. We realized she had passed away the day my nephew entered the world. In my heart of hearts I believe my nephew remembers her in heaven.


Since that day my life has been turned upside down. I miss my little girl every second of every day. I live every day for her. I look forward to the day I will see her again in heaven. Heaven is a very real place to me and a place I look forward to going to. There are only a handful of things that have helped me accept what has happened to us. We found out that Brie had a defect in her umbilical cord that the doctors didn't know about. She was perfect size with a perfect heartbeat...until she simply couldn't handle it anymore. My research has found that babies in her situation will simply adjust to the umblicial blockage and compensate throughout the pregnancy...until they can't anymore. That was my girl...strong and a survivor like her mommy.
In the past six months since I lost my little girl, there are honestly only a few things that have helped me deal. I am a part of the "Memories" Support Group from Lexington Medical Center. The group meets every 2nd Thursday of the month and has been absolutely incredible to me and so supportive. I actually look forward to our meetings because I feel so welcome and so free to talk about Brie with other women in my shoes...whether they are farther ahead in their grieving or behind me...they are so supportive and encouraging to me.


If you or someone you know have gone through a pregnancy loss whether early in pregnancy or farther along, visit a support group and I'm sure you will find the same support and love and encouragement that I have found. If you don't know which one to attend, try out "Memories" every 2nd Thursday at Lexington Medical Center and I can't wait to see you.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Opportunity to give to others

A friend of mine recently wrote to me about something that she is involved with, the "Fresh Air Fund" that enables kids from inner city NYC to have a two-week vacation in the suburbs or country. They place children in homes (any size family) in the 13 northeastern states and Canada.  If you're interested, click on this link: http://freshairfundhost.org/.  Sounds like a good opportunity to reach out!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Read "In Exile" on Hannah's Prayer Blog!

Monday, May 16, the Hannah's Prayer Blog, Held, will publish an article I wrote about what it felt like to be "in exile" from the land of pregnancy when we lost our baby girl, Naomi Faith, at nearly 19 weeks gestation.  Come visit "Held" to hear more...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Proverbs 31 for Pregnancy Loss

I have a love-hate relationship with the Proverbs 31 woman.  You know her – the model wife who seems to have it all together, the Superwoman of the Old Testament who takes care of everything and everyone and is praised by her husband and children at the end of the day.  I love the example – but I also hate her perfection.  What would she do if she were thrust into twenty-first century America, I wonder!

As a mother of children in heaven, I have struggled with her example, too.  Losing a child in pregnancy not only sets a woman on a painful road of grief, but it also is an awful blow to her view of herself as a woman.  I’ve lost three children in pregnancy.  In the place where they should have been the safest, my womb, my body failed them, and me.   What could I offer, if as a mother, I could not protect the most helpless of my children?

Reading Proverbs 31 again, though, showed me not a perfect woman, but a list of priorities that I could use to help navigate the waters of loss, and they focused on some key areas that I believe are potentially hazardous to women who have suffered this unique devastation.  This Mother's Day, a day that may hold much pain for you, I want to invite you into her world to see what she can offer us in our journey.

“She is worth far more than rubies.”
  It is easy to feel worthless after the loss of a baby.  But you are not.  You are valued far above earthly treasures.  Believe it!

“She brings [her husband] good, not harm.” 
It’s easy to neglect your marriage in your own pain and grief.  Don’t forget to focus on your husband and his pain and loss, as well as your own.

“She…works with eager hands.” 
It’s easy to become apathetic.  Guard against this by choosing activities that you can take pleasure in.

“She provides…for her family.”
  It’s easy to turn inward and ignore the needs of others.  If you have living children, don’t ignore them.  If you don’t, then focus on other family members – your husband, your friends, your pets, and your home.

“She considers a field…” 
When you have lost a baby, your whole future is changed.  It helps to make new plans, even short term ones like special date nights, that will allow you to still look forward to the days to come.  

“Her arms are strong for her tasks.”
  After a loss, it’s easy to neglect your body through poor eating and lack of exercise.  Don’t forget to take care of yourself physically, which will help you emotionally, too.

“She sees that her trading is profitable…”
  Take time for the things that are profitable in your life, the things that make life better.

“She opens her arms to the poor…” 
It’s easy to be self-focused when you have experienced a devastating loss.  Look for ways to bless those who are even less fortunate.

“When it snows, she has no fear for her household.” 
There are many future events that are hard when you’ve lost a baby – due dates, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, holidays.  Preparing your heart for them in advance helps when those days come, and makes them less intimidating.

“She makes coverings...”
  Another way to fight apathy is to put your creative energy into new projects around your home and yard.  Surround yourself with beauty. 

“She is clothed in fine linen…”
  The last thing you want to think about after losing a child is how you look.  But taking care of your appearance helps you emotionally, as well.  Don’t be afraid to dress up a bit and look nice.

“Her husband is respected…among the elders...” 
When we are hurting, it’s easy to want our husbands to focus on us and on grieving with us.  It makes the loss easier to bear.  But your husband also has needs and responsibilities, many of which are outside the home, and focusing on those feeds his spirit in a way that will enable him to give at home as well.  Take the time and effort to praise your husband and to encourage him in his activities and friendships with other men. 

“She…supplies the merchants with sashes.”
  Can you use your artistic abilities to make something that will bless others, especially other mothers of babies in heaven?  I know of many mothers who have used their natural talents in art, music, poetry, gardening, photography, and writing to remember not only their children, but the children of others as well.  What can you do?

“She can laugh at the days to come.”
  It’s hard to imagine ever laughing again after a loss.  But you will.  It’s okay to smile, to laugh, to lose yourself in a happy moment.  Remember, your child right now is experiencing unceasing joy!  It’s okay for you to have some, too.

“She speaks with wisdom…” 
When we are hurting, it’s so terribly easy to lash out at others, especially those closest to us, including our husbands.  Be careful of this.  Guard your tongue and ask God to give you wisdom in what and how you speak.

“She does not eat the bread of idleness.” 
It can be easy to fall into the trap of escaping from our pain through busy idleness – surfing the Internet, watching soap operas, losing ourselves in fantasy novels. Take time to rest, but also make the most of your time.

“Her children…call her blessed; her husband also…”
  Did you notice this is the only reference to children in the whole passage?  Being a woman of God is so much more than being a mother.  But if you have a child in heaven, you are a mother!   You will see your child again.  And as women, we have the wonderful potential to "mother" others, to encourage younger women in their walks, including those who walk this path of loss.  Seek out those opportunities. 

“A woman who fears the LORD is to be praised…”
  This is also the first mention of a woman’s relationship with the Lord, but it clearly underlies everything else.  You may have very mixed feelings toward God right now – confusion, anger, disappointment, distrust.  Take time to work through them and to nurture your relationship with Him.  He will carry you through this time, I promise, and there is life on the other side.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Am I A Mother?

Often, people don’t realize how difficult Mother’s Day can be for so many: those who have lost their mothers, who have a strained relationship with their mothers or with their children, those with children who have made poor choices, those who are dealing with infertility – and for those who have had a pregnancy loss, especially if they have no other living children.  They may ask, “Am I a mother?”  Am I a mother if I am not raising my child?  If I never got to hold my baby?  If I have no physical evidence that my child existed beyond a positive home pregnancy test?  If my children died as embryos in an IVF clinic before they were even placed in my womb?  Am I a mother?

If this is where you are at, here are a few suggestions for surviving, and even celebrating, Mother’s Day this year:

  1. Realize that yes, you are a mother.  Your child may not be with you physically, but he or she was alive from the moment of conception.  Your life was changed from the moment your child came into existence, and it will never be the same again.
  2. Plan for positive activities.  If you can, focus on celebrating your own mother.  You may also choose to celebrate the life of your baby in heaven with a balloon release or a private candle-lighting ceremony.  Plan an enjoyable activity with your husband, one you can look forward to.
  3. Protect your heart.  Especially if your heart is raw from a recent loss, don’t put yourself in circumstances that will pour salt on that raw wound.  If your church makes a big deal of Mother’s Day with baby dedications or distributing flowers to mothers, you can stay home or plan a different kind of worship that day.  It’s okay, really.
  4. If you have living children, consider how you will answer the question, “How many children do you have?”  It’s not a betrayal to just mention your living children.  It’s also okay to say something along the lines of, “One on earth, three in heaven.”
  5. Remember that for most people, Mother’s Day is simply a day to celebrate.  They aren’t intentionally overlooking you or minimalizing your grief.  This will not remove your hurt, but remembering it can help you not to take it as personally.

If you are a family member of someone preparing for Mother’s Day in the shadow of pregnancy loss, I encourage you to read the article, “What Grieving Moms want for Mother’s Day”
for some ideas of how to gently reach out to and encourage your loved one. You may also send a loved one a free Healing Hearts e-card specifically designed for pregnancy and infant loss.

If you are a pastor planning your Mother’s Day service, please consider how to make your church activities of that day sensitive to those for whom it is a difficult day, keeping in mind that 1 out of 6 couples deal with infertility on some level, and that at least one-fourth of all pregnancies end in loss, a topic addressed in this open letter to pastors.  Those in the church often speak of motherhood and fatherhood as “God’s highest calling” – a tantalizing and frustrating target that seems out of reach to many.   A simple mention of this from the pulpit or in a prayer goes a long way toward helping such couples feel included, their pain acknowledge and valued.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

To Write Their Names in the Sand - website review

"To Write Their Names in the Sand" is a beautiful memorial website for parents who have lost children in pregnancy, infancy, or other times in childhood.  Carly Marie Dudley and her husband had a son, Christian, who was stillborn.  Some time later, she began a free service to others of writing, and photographing, the names of children in the sand of a beach not far from their home in Australia.  My babies' names (Naomi and Kyria) are posted there if you would like to see an example. The way it works is she posts on her Facebook page that she is taking requests (usually for a brief time - about 24 hours) and then she closes requests while she write and photographs the new names.

This is a really wonderful service to other parents.  That said, however, I want to caution my readers that it is not a Christian site, and I am a little dismayed to see that Carly is now posting weekly "angel card readings" as an encouragement to those who follow her sites.  Angel card readings are NOT based on Scriptural truth, but are grounded instead in New Age teachings.  I truly believe Carly's heart is in the right place, but her spiritual leanings at this time do not seem to be lined up with Biblical truth.  So while I do recommend her site as a place for parents to submit names of their children to be written in the sand as a comforting memorial, I urge caution as you take in some of her other postings.  Many of them are what I consider sound advice for parents who have lost babies (how to handle anniversaries, for example), but others (like the Angel Card readings) touch on spiritual leanings that do not line up with Scripture.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Stuck in Saturday

The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. Luke 23:55-56


No one talks about Saturday.

Plenty has been said about Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified. A day of anguish and accusations, darkness and defeat. Friday was the worst, darkest day in the disciples’ lives. All of their hopes were dashed, nailed to a cross, buried in a tomb.

And Easter Sunday – we know a lot about that. Jesus alive! The grave empty! A day of joy, hope, and miracles!

But no one talks about Saturday....

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For the rest of this article about surviving between your "Good Friday" experience of loss and despair until the glories of an "Easter Sunday", go to http://www.gloryandstrength.com/

Monday, April 4, 2011

New website!

Naomi's Circle has a new home!  We have a new website.  This blog will continue to be active, although most posts will be posted there as well, but the informational areas are better and have more detail on our new site.  Come and visit our new home!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

"I will not fear!" (Psalm 46)

There has been a lot of tragedy in the world news in recent years. Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, wars...all of these are more trigger strong emotions, but for those directly involved, I believe fear tops the list. Fear is a natural reaction to disaster and tragedy, for when the world as we know it falls apart, it is easy to wonder if anything can be trusted to hold us up.

Fear was one of my strongest emotions after losing my daughter Naomi at 18 weeks gestation. Even as a young child, I had feared losing someone close to me. Now, as an adult, the worst had happened. My body had failed me, my baby had died, and no one had been able to stop it. What terrible thing would happen next? Over the next several months, I became hyper-vigilant, checking on our one-year-old daughter several times a night ("Is she still breathing?"), waiting nervously for my husband to get home from work ("What if he got in an accident?"). It was as if I thought my worrying could keep my loved ones safe.

One day in my Bible reading I came across Psalm 46 and was struck by the psalmist's declaration of "no fear" even in the midst of a great natural disaster. He describes the earth giving way and mountains disappearing into the heart of a roaring, surging ocean - who wouldn't fear? And yet, he declares, "We will not fear." How could he live that way, I wondered, when no happy ending was guaranteed?

The answer, I saw in the Psalm, is that we can live without fear not because God promises a happy ending on earth, but because of who He is. He is our refuge when we need protection ("God, protect my family members!"), our strength when we are weak ("God, I can't make it another day!"), our ever-present help in trouble. I love that last description especially. He is not far off, we don't have to call 9-1-1 and wait for help to arrive. He's ever-present, always with us. And someday, the psalmist assures us, wars will cease. God will be exalted over the nations, and in the earth.

Our response in the meantime is to "cease", to "be still" - cease striving, stop trusting in my ability to protect my loved ones by the sheer force of my love and anxiety. Instead, lean on God, and trust in His power and love, and let Him be our stronghold, a place to hide when the waters threaten to drown us, not only physically, but spiritually, too.

There are still plenty of days I battle my old enemy, fear, but when I remember who God is, I, too, can say, "I will not fear, though my body fails me, and my babies wait for me in heaven, though I don't know what the future holds...the LORD of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our stronghold."

Has your loss led to a battle with fear? How have you dealt with this? Leave a comment and share your journey.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Remembering Naomi Faith

It's hard to believe that two years ago today, my sweet Naomi was unexpectedly born sleeping at 18.5 weeks, having already flown to Jesus. I was sick with an abdominal infection that was making me septic, so sick that I had no idea my baby's life was at risk. And now it has been two years.

Today, my three-year-old daughter and I went to the hospital where I was when we lost Naomi, and brought blueberry muffins to the nurses on the floor. Afterwards, we spent a couple of hours together shopping and eating out - bittersweet, as I watched her play at the Chik-Fil-A play area, wondering what life would have been like with two children 18 months apart.

Tonight, I'm reflecting on the many people who have told me that they, too, are remembering Naomi today. All a balm to my soul, because even though I know Naomi is with Jesus, and even though I believe that God is sovereign and that his plan is wisest and best, I still ache for my little girl, and I wish she were here, sharing a room with her sister, making a mess of the house, and generally turning our lives upside down.

Such mixed emotions - joy and sorrow, pain and smiles. Are you there, too? I'm so thankful that I'm not alone...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Milestones

Most people know how hard the first year is after you lose someone.  The first holidays, the first birthday, the first spring, summer, without the one you miss.

What many people don't realize is that when you lose a baby, you have a whole other set of milestones to get through in addition to those firsts.  And the earlier you lose a baby, the more milestones you have in front of you.
  • The day you would have announced your pregnancy to the world
  • The day you would have heard your baby's heartbeat
  • The first ultrasound
  • The end of the first trimester, and the second
  • Feeling your baby move for the first time
  • Shopping for baby supplies
  • Registering for baby gifts
  • Attending your own shower
  • Getting a tour of the hospital
Then there are the big ones:
  • your estimated due date
  • your first Mother's Day or Father's Day
  • your anniversary of loss
  • anticipating what your baby would be doing now if he or she had lived
  • what would have been your baby's first Christmas, first Thanksgiving, first birthday...
Maybe all of these milestones are why it is normal for parents to take 18 to 24 months to begin healing from a loss.  (I'm approaching the two-year anniversary of losing Naomi, and still cry at support group meetings!)  If you are still in this timeframe, do not rush yourself or let others rush you through the grieving process.  No, you should not be "over it" by now, you shouldn't be done grieving.  You have lost your child.  Each parent's time frame is different, but it is normal to take a while to work through the most painful period of grieving.  There is light and laughter and joy on the other side, and even in the midst of the pain, but don't set a deadline for yourself.  You'll make it, I promise.

Question for you:  When did you feel yourself moving past the worst of your grief?  What helped?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Remembering Jordan Gabriel

Today would have been my due date with Jordan.  Strange that a baby who lived inside me for about a week would have such a huge impact on my life -- and yet, not so strange.  To quote the elephant Horton, "A person's a person, no matter how small."  Personhood in God's eyes is not measured by size and the impact of a life is not measured by days.  For the rest of my life, February 2 will have a bittersweet ring to it. 

Jordan is the one who made me a mommy of four, who gave me the gift of a positive pregnancy test before the age of 40.  I have no way of knowing if he was a boy or a girl, but we keep leaning toward calling him "him". 

The world of medicine would shrug him off as a "chemical pregnancy" and would minimize his life by using the words "very early" to describe the miscarriage I had.  I was even advised at the time not to use early pregnancy tests anymore - so as not to know?  But not knowing does not change the fact that he lived and that, for a brief time, I was expecting and imagining the life my baby would lead and what kind of big sister my daughter would be. 

So...today I mourn and grieve the loss...but I also celebrate the life he lived here, in my womb, and the life he lives now, in the presence of God.  My loss, heaven's gain....Jordan's gain. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review: "An Empty Cradle, A Full Heart"

An Empty Cradle, A Full Heart from Loyola Press is a book that is small on size and huge on impact.  The subtitle is "Reflections for mothers and fathers aftter miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death."  It's a collection of brief (one-paragraph) expressions of different stages of grieving the loss of a child, alternating with Scriptures that address that topic. 

Here is one example from the chapter "Reflections for fathers":

I held her perfect little body.  Tiny toes and fingers and wispy dark hair.  It's hard to believe that just a few hours ago she was alive inside my wife.  Something happened - I'm still not exactly sure what - and she died just before she was born.  How could that precious little body be so lifeless?

Holding her wasn't like I expected it to be, but I'm glad that at least I got to tell her that Daddy loves her.
And on the facing page:
"...you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you."  Isaiah 43:5
The reflections are heart-wrenchingly honest cries, sharing everything from keeping busy so it doesn't hurt so much, to reflecting on an empty crib, to feeling imprisoned by grief, to the suprise of feeling slivers of joy break through when you think you will never smile again.  This book doesn't preach or teach.  There is no commentary to explain the Scriptures or the reflections.  It just sits in your hands and offers the thoughts of other moms and dads to give you comfort, let you know that you're not alone, and to give you a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel.   Reading it made me cry and smile at the same time, and was strangely comforting in both.  It's a book I'm keeping around to give as a gift to others who have to deal with this awful sorrow.  I strongly recommend it, especially if you have a more poetic nature.  It will speak to your heart and to your soul.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My One Word


We are now two weeks into the new year. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? If you are like me, you make them and by now (two weeks in) are rethinking them or kicking yourself for already breaking them. Or if you have felt clobbered by life (as I did in 2009), maybe you pushed the whole resolution thing aside in favor of just surviving.

Some friends online told me about a New Year’s idea that I love – it’s called “My One Word”, and the idea is that instead of making a bunch of resolutions or promises that are hard to keep up with, you choose one word that represents what you sense God is working on in you, or what He is doing in your life, and you focus on that one word or idea for the year.

Just thinking about it is helping me do some positive soul searching. In retrospect, my word for 2009 would have been “Survive.” I survived multiple surgeries, the loss of two children, two cancer scares, and more stress than I have ever been under. My word for 2010 would have been “Strength” as I focused on regaining my strength physically and emotionally. Looking ahead at 2011, I keep getting drawn to the word “Submit.” Not a word we think about real positively in our culture, is it? We think of submitting as giving in and giving up. But the Greek word for it, hupotasso, actually is a military term that means “to arrange in order under” someone. The idea is not mindless obedience, but yielding out of respect for the one over you, and this is what I sense God is doing in me this year.
  • I want to submit to God’s plan for my life, whatever it is, day by day.
  • I want to submit my choices to the Word of God.
  • I want to submit my character to the Holy Spirit’s molding power.
  • I want to submit my needs to others’, beginning at home with my husband, and extending that to other relationships, too, with my family, my co-workers, and my friends.
As you look at this next year, what is your one word? Where else can you go with it? If you’ve lost a baby recently, maybe what comes to mind first is remembering your child in heaven. As you think on that, what else can you remember? God’s promises? Who you are in Christ? There are some great ideas on the website www.myoneword.org. I encourage you to think on this and ask God to show you how He wants to move in your life this year, how he wants you to steward your story. I am praying for you.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New year, new hope, new beginnings

In the last thirty minutes, the year 2010 has faded into history and 2011I  has taken the stage.  I was reflecting earlier on where I was this time two years ago (several months before Naomi's death began our journey into the worold of pregnancy loss) and one year ago (rejoicing in a negative biopsy report and remembering our second loss, Kyria).  Last year, I couldn't wait to leave 2009 behind and all of the hurt and grief it represented.  The year 2010 seemed to hold such promise - surely it couldn't be worse than the year we had just finished!  Have you ever felt that way?

Now I find myself feeling the same way about 2011.  A new year, full of hope and possibilities.  But also full of memories, and I am caught in the middle - between wanting to move forward into the future God has for me and my family, and not wanting to forget my babies in heaven, who are permanently in the past.  The new memories I make in 2011 will not include them, except as we bring the memory of their brief lives into what we do.

I've also been reminded that my hope can't be in the freshness of a year with less than an hour under its belt.  There is nothing magical about the clock striking 12 or opening a new calendar.  I am the same person, with the same life, the same grief, the same wishes...and the same Savior.  Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.  I am heading into a time of year that triggers a lot of memories as we approach the second anniversary of Naomi's death, and my hope this year is that as I walk through those memories, I will be clinging tightly to my Savior's nail-scarred hand and allowing Him to comfort me. 

Especially for those of you who can't wait to leave 2010 behind, my prayer for you is the same.  The first year after a loss is hard as it is full of anniversaries and the "first ____ without" (you fill in the blank).  May God tenderly hold you as you walk those steps and lead you into His light and hope.